The United States on Monday sanctioned Venezuelan lawmaker Luis Parra (L) and six other current and former officials for their role in attempting to seize control over the National Assembly. Photo courtesy of Rayner Pena R./EPA-EFE
Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has sanctioned Venezuelan officials including lawmaker Luis Parra after their failed attempt last week to forcibly seize control of the opposition-led National Assembly.
Venezuela's embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, attempt to forcibly install Parra as the new National Assembly chief on Jan. 5 while the military forcibly barred some 100 opposition lawmakers, including National Assembly leader and self-appointed Venezuelan President Juan Guaido, from participating in the vote.
The opposition labeled the attempt as a "coup" and held their own election at a nearby newspaper office where Guaido earned a quorum of the 167-member legislature. Days later, Guaido and his supports stormed the country's parliament building to reclaim his role as president of the assembly.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced the sanctions Monday against Parra and six other current and former government officials for their "actions undermining democracy" in the crisis-stricken nation.
"Today's designations focus on seven Maduro-aligned National Assembly delegates who took steps to undermine the election process in the National Assembly," the Treasury said in a statement.
The sanctions came as momentum appeared to be waning behind the United State's year-long intensive push to dethrone Maduro following his 2018 re-election being deemed illegitimate early last year.
The United States, along with more than 55 countries, has supported Guaido's claim to the presidency and repeatedly tightened both political and economic vises on Maduro to force him to step down.
But the United States appeared to be at least adjusting its posture when it called on Thursday for negotiations over establishing a transitional government.
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said they underestimated Maduro's support of Russia to prop him up, but that the failed attempt to install Parra as the new assembly head appears to have prompted countries that have stayed relatively noncommittal on the issue to voice concerns.
"If the regime had had the votes, it would not have ordered soldiers to keep elected deputies out of the National Assembly in shameful scenes you've seen in videos," Abrams told reporters in Washington on Jan. 6.
"Those actions have been condemned and rejected by countries all over the world," he said, before stating they were looking at imposing additional personal sanctions.
Venezuela denounced the sanctions Monday, accusing the United States of attempting to "undermine the proper functioning of the country's democratic institutions."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that those who "stifle and repress" Venezuela's democratic process will be held accountable.
"Venezuela's security forces own allegiance to the Venezuelan people, not Maduro," he said on Twitter.